ESTONIA


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APRIL 20, 2003

KavkazCenter
HARASSED

Russian government officials have been pressing Estonian authorities to shut down the pro-independence Chechen Web site KavkazCenter (www.kavkazcenter.com), according to local and international press reports.

Sergei Yastrezhembsky, an adviser to President Vladimir Putin, warned that, "Countries which aspire to partnership and mutually advantageous relations with the Russian Federation should bear in mind Russia's categorical objection to the hosting of information resources on behalf of Chechen separatists," the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has also called on Estonia several times to shutter the site, but the request was rejected. Estonian Prime Minister Juhan Parts told reporters that, "The Web site is not in the government's server, therefore the government won't interfere."

Russia's campaign against KavkazCenter was initiated after the site posted a dramatic, two-minute video clip on April 20 that showed a devastating rebel ambush on a bus in Chechnya allegedly carrying special police. The video, which was broadcast on some Russian television stations, severely embarrassed the government, whose upbeat reports about Chechnya had failed to mention the April 15 ambush. The video provided fresh evidence that a Kremlin-orchestrated peace process in Chechnya has failed to curtail violence and normalize life in the region.